CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City – The Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) continues to violate children's rights as evidenced by the recent capture of three child soldiers in the Sept. 8 encounter in San Fernando, Bukidnon.
The three minors were among the 10 captured NPA rebels during an armed encounter between soldiers of the 88th Infantry Battalion and more or less 20 guerrillas belonging to the Platoon 1 of Guerilla Front Malayag of the Sub Regional Committee 2 of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee in a forested area in Barangay Mabuhay.
Maj. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) commander, on Saturday decried the NPA’s wanton violation of the children’s human rights and the International Humanitarian Law in recruiting minors.
He added that without regret, the minors are dragged into joining the armed conflict.
The three child-soldiers, Brawner Jr. said, are fortunate that government troops were able to rescue them from the violent path and communist terrorists’ exploitation by utilizing them for a violent cause even at their young age.
“The NPA allowing minors to be with the group of armed men has clearly disregarded the safety and welfare of the children. Instead of protecting them, let them go to school and enjoy their childhood, the NPA tramples children's rights by continuing to recruit minors who they can easily take advantage of and who are easily swayed by their false promises to join their senseless cause,” Brawner Jr. said.
Violation of children's rights, IHL
Republic Act 11188, the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act,” declares children as “zones of peace,” aimed at protecting children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse and violence such as recruiting children into government armed forces and other armed groups.
Enlisting or recruiting children under the age of 18 years into an armed force or group other than the national armed forces and using children under the age of 18 years to participate actively in hostilities is a crime under Paragraph 24, Section 4C, Article 3 of the IHL act.
“We must all condemn the NPA’s blatant violation of children’s rights. These minors were deceived and manipulated, we can prevent the NPA’s recruitment by monitoring the activities of our children and teaching them to be wary and vigilant against CNT and their front organizations”, Maj. Gen. Brawner Jr added.
The 4ID, in a press release Saturday, clarified that 10 rebels were captured instead of nine as earlier reported. Of the 10, 6 are males and 4 are females, including the three minors and seven indigenous peoples (IPs).
The report added that two of the 10 were wounded during the clash. One of the wounded rebels is now in stable condition in a hospital while the other one was turned over to the local police.
Through the assistance of Rebecca C. Marva, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer of San Fernanado, Bukidnon, the 3 child-soldiers were identified as: alias Jef, male, 11; alias Taburok, female, 17; and alias Daniel, male, believed to be under 18.
The age of alias Daniel has yet to be confirmed due to the unavailability of his birth certificate.
Alias Taburok, an IP, said they are all relatives of NPA members.
She added that a certain alias Daligas, who was killed in an encounter sometime in 2020, was his uncle.
She claimed to have been invited by his uncle for a visit in an NPA lair only but was no longer allowed to return home; underwent teach-ins and eventually became an NPA member for two years.
To date, the number of surrendered and ‘rescued’ child-soldiers within the 4ID area of responsibility in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions has reached 62.
The local government of San Fernando, through the MSWDO, provided the captured NPA rebels, including the three minors, with fresh clothing, food packs, and other basic necessities.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA. (PR)